Monday, 23 September 2013

Return to Sanctuary

I've been playing Diablo 3 for the last fortnight, pretty much non-stop. The PC version was pretty hard to get, but good old Venus managed to get me a copy of the XBox version a week after release, so its been all about Tristram, Caldeum and the Arreat plateau almost every minute I can spare.
I was 28 when I first played Diablo. I picked it up in Landmark and I think I got till the penultimate level - I fought Archbishop Lazarus and maybe even killed him. I'm sure I did not fight Diablo the first time around. I played it without really getting into it. At that time, my nieces were like and 8 and 3 years old and I was much more into playing Prince of Persia 2 - with Malu sitting on my lap, watching the "red prince", as she called him, wade through skeletons and slither under slicing blades. It was only after I went to Hyderabad that I really got hooked by Diablo. This time it was Diablo 2. I bought the second game, and was blown away. I was working in Satyam at the time and had rented an apartment in Ameerpet. Rented furniture, empty rooms - pretty spartan. But I had a PC and a TV and a DVD player, so everything I needed was right there.
I loved it. From the first quest in the Den of Evil where you meet Corpsefire the zombie, your first superunique, to the final level in hell. The green fields and caves of the first act - meeting that little blue bastard Rakansihu, who diarrhea'd lightning and moved frustrating faster than your mouse; Treehead Woodfist, who hit like a truck; Bishibosh the Shaman, the resurrector of Shamans; bloody Blood Raven, zipping around the screen; the Countess and her minions, who dropped the first rune I ever found; Andariel herself, spidery, nipple ringed with her poison nova; Radament the mummy, another fucking poisoner, the huge Coldworm the Burrower, lying surrounded by minions; Duriel - oh Christ - fucking Duriel, moving like a snake and hitting like a battering ram - and freezing you as he does it over and over and over; the Fetishes in Act III, swarming all over you while one of their number climbs on the shoulders of another while breathing flame at you and Witch doctor Endugu, waiting for you at the lowest level of the Flayer Dungeon, infested with soul killers and Stygian Watchers. And there was the fight with the council members in the temple: Geleb Flamefinger, Toorc Icefist and the other guy - where the only strategy that works is the "Run Away" And then on to hell itself- where you make your way past Hadriel into the Chaos Sanctuary and open the seals. I still remember the Oblivion. The Infector of Souls was a joke,  The Grand Vizier of Chaos was tough but Lord DeSeis - oh man, he was the absolute pits. I believe that he was nerfed later, but when I played him - first as a paladin, he would kill me in seconds. And there was big red himself. With his streams of fire and that bloody red lightning, the bastard made me run for cover into the cathedrals entry way and town portal something like every 10 seconds.
Fuck, the amount of time I spent on that game! I would return from work at around 10:30 and think, "OK, just a couple of hours" and the next thing you know, it's 4:00 am.
And then I bought the box-set. This one.

Yes, that was just one box
The opening cutscene blew my mind.
 It doesn't seem like a big deal now, but then, back in 2001, it blew me away - especially the old Barbarian at the gates of Sescheron. Irritation, curiosity, shock, terror, resignation and weak defiance chase across his face - not at all bad for 800x600 resolution. And Baal himself - ghibbering and gleeful, turning the old man into chunky giblets, giggling all the time.
So now I had two more character classes to try out, and more baddies on to kill. Almost a year went that way.
Looking back, I realise that despite all this obsessive playing, I never was close to hardcore. My best character was a level 80-something assassin, but I never lasted very long in Hell mode. I think (I may be completely wrong) that I made it past the first couple of acts on Hell, but I got tired of dying so often and losing my experience and money that I finally gave the game up.
I left Satyam in 2002 and left the box set with my nephews. A few months later, my cousin tells me "What have you done? All my son does is play that game - for hours at an end, while his textbooks gather dust." I felt a quiet glow of satisfaction. I had passed the torch on.
Anyway, about DIII. I'm 43 years old. My eyesuight is going. My reflexes are nowhere near what they were 15 years ago, when I first entered the town of Tristram, one one 640x480 pixelated night.
So, now I play on the console.It's a lot easier. I'm playing the demon hunter, who looks like this. I didn't want to start with the melee characters.
And she totally kicks ass
So, I've played for about a week now. I've completed the normal run, on normal difficulty. The art is a combination of D1 and D2. Tristram is darker - it's always night-time. The monster enchantments now include stuff like "Vortex", which pulls you in from afar;"Jailer", which locks you in a force circle or some kind; "Plagued", where you have to dodge green pools of poison and "Nightmare", which is just good old D&D  "Fear".
It's smooth, the loot keeps falling, you find rares and legendary items at reasonable frequencies. The dialogue is not much, but the story is a great deal better than the first two versions. And it's enough to keep an old fogie happy for a long time.
//The only problem? I have GTA V lying unwrapped on my table